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Home care workers in California file lawsuit in federal district court for misclassification

There are many ways to misclassify a worker to avoid complying with existing labor laws in California. A recent lawsuit demonstrates that clearly.

California home care franchiser Griswold International LLC is being sued by a group of home care workers for $3 million. 

The workers’ statement of claim says that they signed a franchise agreement under the misrepresentation that Griswold used the independent contractor business model. Furthermore, they claim, Griswold mislead them to believe their business model was thoroughly vetted, documented, supported and specifically valid in California. 

The home care workers are suing for damages for fraudulent concealment, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and violation of California’s Franchise Investment Law. They have suggested that Griswold knew, or should have known, that caregiver classification (as independent contractors) had been a strong issue of contention in the state, that California had passed legislation and that, in some states, the franchiser had already rolled over to an employee business model or a modified independent contractor model.

As a test case, this one is worth watching. It is hoped the courts further clarify which business model is operative in California. Despite other case law in this area, employers have continued to push the limits of the law.

For more information on the case, refer to Andersen v. Griswold International LLC, No. 3:14-cv-02560 (N.D. Cal. June 3, 2014).

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Legends Football League faces class action lawsuit 

Employees of the all-female, lingerie-clad football “league” have filed a class action lawsuit in California state court, alleging that former and current players were deliberately misclassified as independent contractors, not employees.

Their statement of claim outlines a number of alleged violations of California’s wage and hour laws, including failure to pay overtime wages, failure to pay at least a minimum wage and failure to pay wages for all hours worked. 

The complaint further outlines that the League mandated all players to be present for various events such as games, practices and various promotional events booked by the League. Allegedly, the League reserved the right to discipline players who did not attend such events, did not permit any negotiation relating to the terms of the independent contractor agreement and prevented players from performing any outside activities that may result in injury.

California’s wage and hour laws are applicable to everyone in every industry. The law is applied equally in all circumstances and no matter the type of work, its classification, wages, hours and other rights, mandated by law, must be followed.

For more information on the case, refer to Margulies v. Legends Football League, LLC, No. BC550244 (Super. Ct. Cal. June 27, 2014).

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Colorado federal court decision on age discrimination may apply in California

A federal court in Colorado has allowed a former worker to move forward with an age discrimination claim, in spite of the fact that he had signed a release and severance agreement when he lost his job during company downsizing.

In Foster v. Mountain Coal Company, LLC., the court disqualified the exemption of the age discrimination claim because it did not completely meet the requirements of the Older Workers’ Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA).

The court focused on the section of the OWBPA that the company did not meet: the “knowing and voluntary” requirement. The employer did not properly advise the worker to discuss the agreement with an attorney before signing it. The OWPBA is intended to guarantee that older workers have every chance to make informed choices about signing or not signing a release that includes an age discrimination claim.

In this case, the agreement stated that the plaintiff was voluntarily signing it, completely understanding its contents after he had the chance to consult with a legal advisor. But the past tense language meant the plaintiff had been given an opportunity — but was not specifically advised to act on that opportunity — to discuss the agreement with an attorney. The agreement should have clearly stated the plaintiff must be advised to talk to a lawyer before signing anything.

Across the United States, more cases of severance agreements that waive employee rights and are illegally couched in broad, vague terminology have been surfacing in the last five years. The EEOC has also been filing more cases of this nature. And these rulings could all become applicable in California.